Digital strategies for marketers in Zambian tourism

September 29, 2017

A Zambian tour expert and your blogger recently talked about the
digital strategies for marketers in Zambian tourism and how technology is reshaping consumer habits in Lusaka and other major towns in the country.He said that sooner or later every company, institution in Zambia is going to face disruption and the digital era is going to make it come faster. He believes techies main targets of this digital disruption is Zambia’s conventional companies that have built up a good reputation over the years.At the very beginning, any innovation causes disturbance and doubt among society, but as time goes by, it becomes the new normal.Realizing this, the country’s ministry and tour operators are working on digitalizing the management of tourism sector and the new developments are expected to create a positive impact.The country will launch a new digital platform soon to boost its tourism industry, according to some sources which will prove that the use of digital technology is going to take Zambian tourism to a new level.The platform will bring together tourist offerings from across the country, allowing visitors to browse and book travel packages through a single portal which will also be encouraging travel businesses to go online. There is no doubt traditional travel agents will be left behind if they do not take this opportunity. The Ministry of Tourism is expected to train travel agents to design better websites to market their products.Zambia is looking to other countries like Mauritius for lessons in using digital in tourism. The tool built by the Mauritius Government helps tourism businesses promote their products on travel websites.Traditionally, businesses would have to register and allocate inventory with each website.However their system simplifies that by automatically delivering their rates and availability across multiple websites.South Africa recently announced that will use data analytics to gain insights on tourists’ behaviour. It is also building a digital repository for businesses to share their products with travel agencies which is also something Zambian tourism sector can look into.There were several digital marketing strategies I recommended to him, many of which will apply to other businesses as well.One of them is having a website that displays well on mobiles devices as more than half of Zambians and foreign tourists now have a smartphone and a huge percentage of them access the internet on their mobile devices. The other idea idea was how to make it easier for people to get the information they want. For example Live chat is a great and affordable technology which would lend itself extremely well to the tourism sector, yet hardly any operators in Zambia use it.

This will save tour agents the drawn-out games of returning calls to prospective customers and the endless emails exchanges.It also does makes sense to make an app and use apps to have an advantage, as an app developer i know apps solve our daily problems and any Zambian savvy tourism operator would do well to spend some time discovering apps which may solve some of their problems, or those of their clients.The other missing strategy among Zambians is lack of allowing people to book and pay anytime of the day or night.In my view, making it quick and easy for people browsing agent site to make a decision, it makes complete sense for tourism operators to offer facilities to check availability, book and pay online. Yet a huge number of tourism operators in Zambia do not have this functionality in place. Being smartphone savvy is no longer an option but a must have for tour agencies in Zambia, gone are the days when travelers would pop into internet cafes and write an email home. Nowadays tourists travel equipped with internet enabled mobile phones and tablets. This is something that can and must be considered when marketing to the modern day traveller to Zambia.Gone are the days of heading to the local tourism information centre as the only way of finding out what do in Zambia.With the rise of websites and social media, people are increasingly heading online to get tips on how to have a weekend or holiday to remember.In the past, a lot of the emphasis was put on the visitor information centres. People don’t have as much time to drop into such places anymore and are looking online to do a lot more research. And there comes another more significant strategy, social media has given Zambian tourism a great opportunity to have a conversation with travelers to the country.Social media gives them a chance to actually reach out to people who aren’t in Zambia. It’s hard to say whether social media is more important than the other strategies i shared with him or not. However, I still feel that there’s a really valuable experience in heading into official information websites and social media pages, because they contain accurate information to tourists who don’t know a lot about Zambia.Social media is more to capture those people who have no time to visit information centers than to take away from the people who already see the centre as valuable.Although people are gravitating to social media, the internet won’t impact on the need for people in the tourism industry in Zambia because the tourism sector is always going to rely on face-to-face interactions and experiences that are tactile, not just digital. And I say that with a lot of confidence because there is no way a trip to my favorite destination Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park or Liuwa Plain National Park would be complete without a face to face interactions with tour guides.

Contador Harrison